2013 09 04 NYT Getting a Glimpse of Your Own Marketing Data Online – NYTimes.com
Getting a Glimpse of Your Own Marketing Data Online
By NATASHA SINGERJacob Slaton for The New York Times Scott Howe, chief executive of Acxiom, demonstrated his company’s new consumer portal by displaying his own residential data.
Updated with analysts’ comments
Last weekend, I wrote a story about Acxiom, a marketing technology firm that introduced a Web site on Wednesday morning called Aboutthedata.com. The site allows consumers to view all sorts of personal details the company has collected about them in its marketing databases.
The piece provoked an animated conversation across social media:
On the Web site, people who are willing to undergo an identity verification process — which includes submitting your name, address and the last four digits of your Social Security number — and who pass that test will be able to see, correct and delete information Acxiom has collected about them.
But some privacy and security analysts said they were uncomfortable with an identity verification system that requires consumers to give personal details like their birth dates and partial Social Security numbers in order to access their marketing records. Ashkan Soltani, an independent privacy and security consultant who visited the site Wednesday morning, told me he was reluctant to give Acxiom “even more info about me — specially high-quality info that I volunteer.”
He was more blunt on Twitter:
Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union, also warned about potential security flaws. After all, he said, family members like ex-spouses — as well as employees of banks and credit card companies — may have access to the same personal identity details about consumers and could use that information to impersonate them on the site.
“The data verification system does not inspire confidence,” Mr. Soghoian said.
For those who are willing to log in, they will find six categories of information on the site that could include personal details like race, gender and occupation; residential data like assessed home data and lot square footage; vehicle data like the make and model of your car; economic data like estimated household income; shopping data like whether your household buys books, cooking utensils or toys; and household interests like board games, golf, hunting or text-messaging.
When I visited Acxiom’s headquarters in Little Rock, Ark., last week to get a preview of Aboutthedata.com, I discovered that I was unable to view my own marketing profile. It turned out that, after I started writing about Acxiom last year, including a piece about the troubles I had getting access to my Acxiom record, the company had opted me out of its marketing databases.
So, after I passed the identification process on the new site, I found there were no details to see about me — only a message saying there was no information available.
We would love to hear from readers who are able to view their details on Aboutthedata.com.
What’s your reaction to the site? How did you find the identity verification process — was it secure enough for you? How accurate were the data about you and your household? How did the site make you feel about data mining for the purposes of marketing? Did you modify or delete your data, did you opt out or stay in? Why?